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We’re now at the end of the academic year, which means that I’ve been doing my PhD for about 9 months now. I’ve just submitted my annual approval document which lays out all the work I’ve done this year and I want to take some time to reflect on what a strange year it’s been, and to list here a few of the accomplishments I’ve made this year which I’m proud of. In times as difficult as these, it’s important that I remember what I enjoy doing and what I can do.

  • Yesterday I was informed that I won the postgraduate prize for achievements in outreach from the School of Maths, Stats, and Physics at Newcastle. This was based on my involvement with Astrobites and the outreach talk I gave to the Newcastle Astronomical Society. Given that I’ve thusfar been completing my PhD entirely remotely, have never been to Newcastle, and have never met any of my research group in person, I’m really proud of myself for continuing to try to do outreach and teaching even during this difficult year. I have found myself lacking in much of the excitement and energy that I usually can bring to all the work I do, but even doing the little outreach I have has felt good.

  • My first paper has now officially been published in JCAP! You can read my blog post about the arXiv version, or read the paper itself.

  • I gave my second scientific talk, this time actually having novel results to show. This was presented as a 15 minute talk at the BritGrav21 conference.

  • I’ve published another Astrobites article, this one about how to measure deviations from GR using FRBs.

  • I’ve made good connections with my new research group and colleagues, even despite not being able to meet anyone in person.

  • I’ve made some big contributions to the first major project of my PhD, which I’m really excited about, and have made really good headway at understanding the background of topics in my field.

More than any “productive” achievements though, the thing I’m most proud of myself for this year is continuing going, keeping in touch with the friends and family I care about, and practising as much kindness and compassion to myself and others as I can manage. This year has been an intense hardship for so many people that it feels icky to boast about productivity or to push oneself or others to maximise efficiency or output. This year, more than most, I am intensely grateful that I prioritised choosing a research group and supervisor that valued me as a person instead of a dispassionate research machine. The support I have had from everyone, even remotely, has helped me continue. My friends set up a weekly games evening, and in the year we’ve been playing, I’ve only had to miss one session. My supervisor has been very understanding and accommodating with when I haven’t been feeling well, and I’ve been able to have honest conversations with her about what things would help me manage to stay on track.

This year, I am thankful for the kindness that the people I’ve surrounded myself with have shown me, and I am glad that I had both the foresight and the priviledge to have chosen the right people to live and work with.